As a trainer for the New Jersey Crime Scene Investigators Association, Detective Sergeant Sarah Beninghof, of the New Jersey State Police Crime Scene Investigations Unit, is used to keeping her eyes on the future. The standardized training provided by the association not only improves the quality of evidence collection but also ensures that forensic procedures in New Jersey will stand the test of time. That’s true of forensic mapping tools, as well. “With technology, we have to look down the road at what the potential problems are going to be and rectify those problems early if we can,” Beninghof says.
Future Forensic Standardization Will Impact Today’s Crime Scene Data
With the U.S. Department of Justice’s continued drive toward forensic standardization on a national level, Beninghof believes that public safety agencies need to consider how future requirements will affect their current scan data. “A lot of people think just about today. Well, a lot of these cases don’t go to trial until two years from now,” Beninghof says. “We need that accuracy now to be ready.”
The ability to capture millions of highly accurate measurements at the push of a button has made the 3D laser scanner the gold standard in forensic mapping. Instead of documenting a limited number of tape or total-station measurements, the scanner makes it easy for forensic investigators to digitally memorialize the entire scene in 3D with 360-degree imagery, carry out highly accurate analyses, and create informative work products. “It’s pretty amazing what it does,” Beninghof says. “I don’t think it’s completely caught on yet, but I think that’s the direction we’re heading. That’s where we’re going. That’s where we should be.”
For public safety applications, survey-grade laser scanners are the tool of choice. Unlike scan data that is solely demonstrative, data captured by these highly accurate scanners meets the standards for scientific evidence. As the authors of A call for more science in forensic science point out, the Daubert trilogy demands that “admissibility decisions rely on contemporaneous scientific standards.” And as those standards continue to evolve, agencies currently deploying survey-grade scanners can have absolute confidence in the quality of their data.
Scan Data Is Becoming Integral to the Courtroom
As more forensically scanned scenes reach the courtroom, jurors and prosecutors are becoming increasingly accustomed to the technology’s compelling 3D visualizations. “There’s a move toward providing that data to jurors, providing it to the attorney general’s office, providing it for a police-involved shooting, providing it for infrastructure,” Beninghof says. (Explore this mock crime scene to experience the power of cloud-based digital reality.)
Work products created from scan data greatly improve comprehension and decision-making. For prosecutors, verified accuracy means the data provided in the case file is indisputable. Visualization software gives jurors the ability to virtually visit the scene of the crime and see the evidence for themselves rather than relying solely on 2D diagrams, verbal explanations and their imaginations. “When we’re testifying about angle of impact as it pertains to shooting reconstruction, it’s very hard for the jury to visualize and understand the trigonometry and measurements without a visual aid,” Beninghof says. “The scan data provides this visual aid to the jurors.”
High-Quality Data Lets Your Agency Face the Future with Confidence
When investing in a laser scanner, it’s prudent to consider how the scan data you’ll be capturing today will stand the test of time. “We need to have enough foresight to see where we’re going,” Beninghof says. “I think down the road—where we want this technology to go—is to have that accuracy that will stand up in court and not just be demonstrative.”
For expert guidance on how to maximize confidence in your scene data, contact us.